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Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her
by Renata Zilionis


Talk to Her
(Hable con Ella) is a film by Pedro Almodóvar that is scheduled for release in November 2002. Spanish filmmaker Almodóvar has written and directed several award winning films, the most acclaimed being All About My Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre, 1999). Talk to Her was my first experience with an Almodóvar work and I can't wait to see more. Add this one to your list of movies-to-see.

I was invited to the screening of Talk to Her because the film features excerpts of two Pina Bausch pieces, Café Müller and Masurca Fogo, and the plot revolves largely around a young dancer who is in a coma due to an automobile accident. (For anyone not familiar with Pina Bausch, she is an accomplished expressionist choreographer from Germany and long time director of her own dance theatre company.)

The main characters in the film are Benigno and Marco. Their relationship begins with an encounter at a Pina Bausch concert, which is the opening scene. Marco is moved to tears by the performance of Bausch's Café Müller, and Benigno happens to be sitting next to him in the audience. At this juncture the men do not know one another, but Marco and Benigno will soon meet again and begin a unique and intimate friendship that is the focus of the film.

Their second meeting takes place at the hospital a few weeks after the Pina Bausch concert. Marco is there to visit his girlfriend Lydia, a professional bullfighter, who has been gored by a bull and knocked unconscious. Benigno is a nurse at the same hospital and personal caretaker for Alicia, the wounded dancer. Benigno recognizes Marco from the theatre and strikes up a conversation with him. During the next several weeks the two men share their sadness and frustration with one another while waiting for the women they love, now silent, to wake. Through these experiences Benigno and Marco learn the value of communication and determine that it is much more than words. This is of course something that dancers take for granted since we spend our lives communicating through movement, but it was refreshing to see this concept explored in a non-dance venue.

Talk to Her is a tale of love, loss, communication and friendship. The music is superb and the story both humorous and dramatic. I was disappointed only when Benigno, a character I found extremely endearing, commits a disturbing crime, the details of which I dare not give away. Though the said event is an exciting plot twist, it tarnished my opinion of the previously flawless character, and I desperately wished it wasn't true. The same incident, however, added depth to Benigno's character and therefore contributed to the overall power of the movie.

I was pleased with the value Almodóvar gives to movement by including dance and bullfighting as an integral portions of the plot. I also appreciated his simultaneously reverent and realistic portrayal of the female body demonstrated by the many close up camera angles. It was delightful to see Bausch's choreography in a new context – that is, outside the modern dance world, and in the realm of "regular" people. I found Talk to Her to be a provocative and enjoyable film and encourage you to seek it out.

 

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Edited by Malcolm Tay.

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